Monday, 29 August 2016

Mirthquake - Lessons learned

I choose to do the fringe this year for a variety of reasons, all of which I achieved. Getting better at what I do was the primary one, followed by adapting to the needs of different audiences (small, big, old, young, English, Scottish, international, late night, early afternoon, a mixture of all the above), learning how to promote a show at the fringe, networking for gigs outside of London and to develop ideas for my 2017 solo show.

Doing Mirthquake taught me a lot about how the fringe works and what the reality is of doing a daily show. If you've been reading this blog recently you'll know I gathered a lot of data throughout the run. What you probably didn't know is that I'm a sucker for data, market research and graphs.

So let's break out the big guns:

Daily Turnout At Mirthquake
The Southsider's official capacity is 30 but if people sit down on the side bench and cram a couple of chairs into the back 40 is possible. It comes as no surprise that our room busting forties were two of the Saturdays with the other two Saturdays in the twenties. Sundays are pretty good too. Wednesday and Thursday are the worst days. If I want to take a day off each week in 2017 it'll probably be Thursday - for reasons you'll see below.

Daily Turnout Vs The Bucket
On average people donated between one and two pounds at our show, though in reality this often meant groups of students putting in far less or nothing whilst middle-aged couples would donate a fiver. The terrible donations on the opening night are indicative of us getting to grips with a venue which had only been set up hours before the show itself with an absolute din coming in from the main bar and sweltering heat. By the end of week one the pub had supplied a fan and we'd got comfortable with telling people shouting at each other directly outside our curtain to have some consideration for the show going on. This can be seen clearly by the vastly improved takings on the third Saturday when we had another full house. Thursday 18th's show ended after 20 minutes when the two audience who had come decided it was too weird for them to be the only ones watching and left. Note to self: Take Thursdays off.

Average turnout per show: 19
Average bucket take per show: £27.86

Lessons Learned

Location is everything
The Southsider was a good place for our first show as it had a well proportioned room, nice staff and locals often willing to take a punt. At 4:30pm the noise from the pub was only an issue on weekends. The food and drink was also a lot cheaper than most other places. 

However, it was too far out of town to attract the majority of the passing tourist trade and the room had no door so noise was a massive issue, particularly on weekends when the shows after us became practically unplayable as the general crowd noise was augmented by live music and/or sport. 

Next year I'm only likely to accept a more central venue. Location is more important than time of day.

Flyering is important
The guides do bring people but often you can double your numbers by handing out flyers and even talking to people in the bar shortly before the show starts. Don't bother flyering people with lanyards, carrying shopping, walking quickly or wearing headphones. They will give you the kind of death stare that will remain burned into your mind for years to come.

Perform at compilation shows
Particularly shows early in the day as people often use these as guidance for what to see later. Good comp shows attract 50+ people and you can exit flyer all of them. It's also a good way to see what else is going on at the fringe.

Don't go mental at night
Drinking and dancing has to be done. But not every night. And if you're in your thirties get home by 3am or you and your show will suffer the next day.

Don't run two shows at opposite ends of the day
If you're doing a children's show or MCing a compilation in the early afternoon and then performing your solo show late at night your sleep patterns will be wrecked and the space inbetween the two will be a weird no man's land. Also, you won't get on many other comp show bills and will lose out on the potential promotion these afford.

Look after yourself
Drink water, eat regularly (and not just macaroni pies) and get plenty of sleep. I haven't been ill at all this run whilst pretty much everyone else I know has had to shake off a cold, sore throat or other minor ailment at some point.


  1. Another really helpful blog. I'm considering doing a show next year and your insights and experience have helped me cement some ideas, thanks! Theresa

  2. Glad you found it helpful, thanks for commenting!